OSHTEMO CHARTER TOWNSHIP

PLANNING COMMISSION

 

February 9, 2006

Agenda

TEXT AMENDMENT TO SECTION 76.170 - PUBLIC HEARING

WORK ITEM: VARIOUS TEXT AMENDMENTS

A meeting was conducted by the Oshtemo Charter Township Planning Commission on Thursday, February 9, 2006, commencing at approximately 7:00 p.m. at the Oshtemo Charter Township Hall.

MEMBERS PRESENT: James Turcott
Deborah L. Everett
Terry Schley
Mike Smith
Lee Larson
Kathleen Garland-Rike
Fred Gould

MEMBERS ABSENT: None

Also present were Jodi Stefforia, Planning Director; Mary Lynn Bugge, Township Planner, and James W. Porter, Township Attorney; and approximately two other interested persons.

CALL TO ORDER

The meeting was called to order at 7:00 p.m.

AGENDA

The Chairman asked if there were any additions or changes to the Agenda. Hearing none, Mr. Schley made a motion to approve the Agenda, as submitted. The motion was seconded by Mr. Smith. The Chairman called for a vote on the motion, and the motion passed unanimously.

MINUTES

The Chairman said the next item on the Agenda was the minutes of January 26, 2006. Mr. Smith made a motion to approve the minutes as submitted, and the motion was seconded by Mr. Larson. The Chairman called for a vote on the motion, and the motion passed unanimously.

TEXT AMENDMENT TO SECTION 76.170 - PUBLIC HEARING

The Chairman indicated that the next item on the Agenda was the public hearing for a text amendment. The request was for an amendment to Section 76.170 to eliminate wall sign height for commercial buildings. The Chairman asked to hear from the Planning Department. The Planning Department submitted its report dated February 9, 2006, and the same is incorporated herein by reference.

Ms. Stefforia told the Commission that the applicant was requesting an elimination of the 25-foot wall sign height limitation currently provided for in Section 76.170, Schedule B. She said this applied to all commercial buildings and establishments.

Ms. Stefforia noted that, in looking at Comstock, Kalamazoo and Texas Townships' Zoning Ordinances, none appeared to have a wall sign height restriction other than prohibiting the sign from extending above or beyond the wall to which it was attached. However, she noted that the Texas Charter Township Ordinance did have a limitation on multi-level buildings, which provided that the sign could not be placed above the first floor level. She also noted that the City of Kalamazoo and the City of Portage did not have a wall sign height limitation.

Ms. Stefforia directed the Commission to the relevant excerpts of Section 76.000, as well as the applicant's written request dated November 3, 2005.

The Chairman asked if there were any questions. Mr. Schley asked how this request related to the Village Commercial area. Ms. Stefforia said Section 33 had specific sign criteria for the Village Commercial area. Mr. Schley then asked if those sections would override the generalized provisions of Section 76. Ms. Stefforia said that would be the case, and the additional requirements of Section 33 would control.

The Chairman asked to hear from the applicant. Mr. Michael Chojnowski appeared on behalf of the owners of the Maple Hill Pavilion. Mr. Chojnowski noted that the Township had no limitation on building height, and therefore, he did not believe that a wall sign height limit was warranted. He said the height limitation denied commercial establishments the flexibility to match the architectural facade of their buildings. He stated that the 25-foot restriction was arbitrary, and he did not think it made the best use of a structure aesthetically, nor did it promote visibility and ease of locating a building. Mr. Chojnowski suggested that the Commission control wall signs through area limitations, not through height limitations.

Mr. Chojnowski asked that he also be allowed to address the issue of sign area. Attorney Porter noted that the Planning Commission could not act on his request, since that issue had not been noticed for hearing. Mr. Chojnowski said he understood, but asked that the Commission take a look at the definition of sign area. He presented a revised definition so as to exclude any wall or background area that does not contain an advertising message and which was clearly incidental to the advertising message itself. Mr. Chojnowski advocated simply measuring the area around the letters for wall signs (not contained within a frame) in order to arrive at sign area.

The Chairman called for discussion by the Planning Commission regarding the proposed text amendment. Mr. Smith said that he did not think it would be inappropriate to increase the height of wall signs so long as they did not extend beyond the height of the building themselves. He said buildings set further back from the road might very well need a sign placed higher up, and he did not think it would constitute clutter.

Mr. Schley said that he understood the desire to reduce visual blight along main streets. However, he said there was a degree of difference between billboards and wall signs. He said he thought wall signs could be done in a complimentary and attractive manner. While he was concerned about the signs becoming billboards, he thought that raising the height limitation could be done in an appropriate fashion.

The Chairman asked if the Commission wanted to hold the line with regard to the number of square feet allowed. Mr. Smith indicated yes; several other members commented that they would also like to hold the line on that issue.

Mr. Larson said he liked the language taken from the Texas Charter Township Ordinance, limiting the wall sign height to not higher than the first floor of the building. Mr. Schley asked if he was advocating raising the height but limiting it to the first story. Mr. Larson said yes, so that wall signs for multiple-story buildings would be limited to the height of the first floor facade.

Ms. Everett questioned whether that would create some inequity between building owners, depending upon what they were able to construct. Mr. Smith questioned how that would work if the first story of one building was 15 feet and the first story on the next commercial building was 30 feet. Ms. Stefforia questioned as to where one would measure the "first story."

Mr. Schley said that there could be some difficulty in setting the height limitation based upon the various floors of a multi-level building. He said he thought there were times when a higher wall sign was justified based upon scale and visibility from the road, as well as the speed of the vehicles on the adjoining roadway. Mr. Larson suggested, if that was the case, perhaps a variance could be allowed.

Ms. Bugge expressed a concern that limiting the wall signs to the first story might very well result in a lowering of the wall sign height currently allowed under the Ordinance. Mr. Larson said generally, with a commercial structure, a two-story building is 40-50 feet high. Ms. Bugge pointed out that would likely result in a reduction of the wall sign height, since the current wall height limitation is 25 feet.

Ms. Bugge pointed out that sign permits were time sensitive. She said there had to be clear and precise definitions on this issue within the Ordinance so that it could be effectively administered as it would pertain to every wall sign.

Attorney Porter questioned how one would define a story, particularly within the context of a commercial building. Mr. Schley said that it could be 14 feet from floor to floor in some cases, but could differ in other cases, so it was hard to apply a one-story limitation to wall sign height.

Mr. Larson said he understood the difficulties, but said he was very uncomfortable in not having some type of height limitation on wall signs. Mr. Schley said he understood, but to a certain extent it becomes arbitrary. Ms. Bugge pointed out that there are very few buildings within the Township that had more than two stories. Ms. Everett said she understood the Attorney's comment regarding the need to define specific limitations. Ms. Everett also said she understood Ms. Bugge's need to keep the limitation simple so that it could be properly administered.

The Chairman said, if wall signs were kept to the building height, he would be comfortable with that. Mr. Larson said he had a problem with that, because if a six or seven-story building was constructed, he hated to relinquish control on that issue. He suggested perhaps a 30-foot limitation be imposed. He said he thought there was justification for raising the height limitation, but not without some degree of control.

Mr. Chojnowski said that limiting the wall height on a four to five-story building, to perhaps the second story, would not only be less attractive, but would interfere with the architectural dictates of the building.

Ms. Bugge pointed out that this would only be applicable to commercial buildings, not apartment buildings or residential buildings or office buildings. Mr. Larson suggested that, if the Township got requests for building larger structures within the Township, they could deal with those larger structures at that time. He said to simply relinquish all control would leave the Township in a position of not having authority to deal with the issue when a larger structure was proposed. On the other hand, he noted that, if some height limitation was left in place, and there was a need to modify it in the future, that could be done. He said he did not want to see Oshtemo Township look like Kalamazoo.

Mr. Chojnowski suggested that the Township needed to limit the height of the buildings. Mr. Larson said he believed that was true.

A brief discussion ensued regarding the type of signage and how it should be addressed with regard to mall development verses general commercial development. Following the discussion, Mr. Larson suggested that the text being discussed was adequate if they simply raised the height limitation to 35 feet. Mr. Schley said if the Commission raised the height limitation to 35 feet, it would buy the Township some time to further consider the issue, and that it would be compatible with commercial structures currently being built within the Township. Mr. Larson said he thought that would give the Township flexibility, but with some degree of limitation.

Ms. Stefforia noted that most of the time, the wall signs are not even constructed to the maximum height currently permitted, and therefore, she did not believe raising the height limitation would result in an explosion in higher wall signs.

The Chairman opened the public portion of the meeting, and there being no public comment, closed the public portion of the meeting, and called for Planning Commission deliberations.

Ms. Garland-Rike made a motion to recommend to the Township Board that the wall sign height limitation of 25 feet in Section 76.170 be changed from 25 feet to 35 feet. Mr. Schley seconded the motion. The Chairman called for a vote on the motion, and the motion passed unanimously.

The Chairman then asked for discussion on the issue of sign area.

A lengthy and spirited debate ensued with regard to revisions to the definition of sign area. The specifics of the discussion focused on the issue of whether the material or color forming an integral part of the display message used to differentiate the sign from the background against which it was placed should be included within the measurement area. The Commission, not able to reach a consensus on this issue, i.e., what constituted an integral part of the display and whether the background material or color should be included within the definition of sign area, particularly with regard to channel letters, agreed that the issue be added to the list of the other text amendments currently being considered by the Planning Commission. It was suggested that the Planning Department present examples of the various signs to further the Planning Commissioners' discussion

WORK ITEM: VARIOUS TEXT AMENDMENTS

Due to the lateness of the hour, it was determined that the Planning Commission would not take up Item #5 on the Agenda and that it be set over to a later meeting.

Other Business

None.

Adjournment

There being no further business, the meeting at approximately 9:15 p.m.

OSHTEMO CHARTER TOWNSHIP
PLANNING COMMISSION

By:
Kathleen Garland-Rike

Minutes prepared:
February 16, 2006

Minutes approved:
, 2006